They were all there: the Marine Band, resplendent in red coats and white trousers; the honor guard and troops in sea service blue coats and white trousers; generals and admirals, the secretary of the Navy; privates and sergeants; the secretary of Defense; political figures and common folks; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; senators; and family members and friends.

The historic Post Chapel at Arlington National Cemetery could not accommodate all of those who came to say goodbye to one of the most respected and admired officers in the nation, Gen. Louis H. Wilson, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor (for extraordinary heroism during the liberation of Guam) and former commandant of the Marine Corps.

To us on Guam, Gen. Wilson was someone very special. His respect and affection for the people of Guam was deep and genuine. He visited Guam more often than any general or admiral in any of the other military services. He did this while on active duty and continued it in retirement. The participation of the Marine Corps in the annual observance of Liberation Day is largely due to his commitment to honor both the liberated and the liberators at our annual celebration.

Gen. Wilson's passing and his relationship with Guam and its people were memorialized by our political leaders within days after his passing. Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo paid tribute to him in the halls of Congress, which was entered in the Congressional Record. The 28th Guam Legislature passed a resolution under the signature of Speaker Mark Forbes expressing condolences, and acting Gov. Kaleo Moylan issued a proclamation declaring July 25 as an official day of mourning, with all flags, federal and territorial, lowered to half staff.

Following the memorial service, it was my great honor to present these moving tributes to Mrs. Wilson on behalf of our member of Congress, our speaker, and our acting governor at a brief ceremony in the home of the commandant at Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. Mrs. Wilson was visibly touched by our gesture and she asked me to thank the people of Guam heartily for their thoughtfulness.

At the simple and magnificent, humble and elegant funeral service today, my thoughts flashed back to those difficult days during the occupation when we pondered often, lengthily and prayerfully, what was to become of us. During one of those sitting-on-a-log evening chats with my father, he reassured us that we would be liberated and the question was not what would become of us, but what we would do with ourselves after liberation. I recall so vividly his telling me that the yardstick by which we should be measured is whether or not others benefit from having known us and become better persons.

I believe that those of us who had the honor and privilege of serving with or under Gen. Wilson or wearing the same uniform -- Pete Siguenza, Danny Santos, Adolf Sgambelluri, Ben Guerrero, John Gerber, Bob Klitzkie, Ray Babauta and Lee Webber, among others -- will attest to the fact that we are better persons for having known the gentleman from Mississippi. And, judging from the reaction of our people and our political leaders to his passing, that sentiment is widely shared.

As the Marine bugler sounded "Taps" following a fly-over by four Marine fighters, I thanked the Lord for the good fortune of crossing paths with Gen. Wilson whose inspiration prompted me to reach goals I never thought possible. I shall miss him dearly.

BEN BLAZ, brigadier general, Marine Corps (Ret.), former member of Congress
July 21, 2005